Well, I'm two weeks into my three-week-cross-country-road-trip-with-beagle. I've made it all the way from Westport to L.A. so that my youngest son, in his freshman year at USC, could visit with his beloved doggy. The dog and I stayed in Santa Monica for six days, and have now begun the journey back east. I've seen things I'd never seen; done things I'd never done. This adventure has been all I'd hoped for, and then some.

I do have to confess, though, that thanks to one little 28-pound furry companion, things have not always gone exactly as planned.

You might remember in my last column ["Road Trip! Just a man and his dog and his `to do' list," Sept. 9], I spoke with unrestrained pride about all the prep-work that had gone into this trip. Finding the pet-friendly motels. Programming emergency phone numbers. Getting everything laid out in the Acura just so. Gathering Ricky's food, and treats, and meds and toys. There's nothing I didn't think of.

The breakthrough concept of which I was inordinately proud was my idea of using those plastic stacking file boxes, instead of suitcases or duffels, for my clothes and belongings. I had one box for socks and boxers; another for shorts and T-shirts; a third for shoes and flipflops. The theory was that rather than schlepping a huge suitcase into a different motel each night, I'd simply grab the items I needed out of the containers, throw them in my backpack, and I'd be ready to roll.

Well, by Day Two, the box system was in shambles. All it took was one late-night arrival in Nashville: I madly rifled through every container in the dark after a 670-mile drive, and couldn't find a single blessed thing I was looking for. I wound up dragging pretty much the entire contents of the Acura way-back up to my room -- and then re-packed it all in that huge suitcase I'd been trying to avoid.

Then there was my firm belief that Ricky would never budge from his shotgun seat in the front of the SUV, because that's how he behaves when he rides with me all around town. What I hadn't reckoned with is that, unlike when we do errands in Westport, on this trip his entire food supply happens to be in the cargo space. He was fine when the car was in motion: snoozed the entire 3,200 miles. But every time the car came to a stop, his nose went airborne, and the battle was on. Ricky tried to worm his way through the space between the two front seats; I tried to bottle up that gap with some of my (now unused) boxes. Then he went for the gap between the driver's seatback and the side door of the car; I sealed that off with backpacks and umbrellas. For every one of Ricky's crazed forays into the way-back, I re-configured my entire packing job. But there was only so much I could do, because Ricky's crate was in the way . . .

Ricky's crate!

For three days I'd totally forgotten it was in the car -- even though I actually cut my hand on its sharp edges more than once trying to fish Ricky out from some crevice he'd wangled his way into in his never-ending quest for food. I'd originally packed the crate with the intention of using it when we finally reached our hotel in Santa Monica -- but it never occurred to me to use it while Ricky was in the car. This revelation came crashing down on me while taking my morning shower in Tulsa, after Ricky had sent me over the edge with his Kamikaze raids the day before.

But while using the crate for "timeouts" was a godsend, it still wasn't the answer. I really didn't feel like carting Ricky to the back of the car and shoving him into his crate for every two-minute pit stop. So I finally picked up a dog barrier at a PetSmart in Culver City, Calif., and had it installed -- which is what I should have done before leaving Westport. Ricky's not gonna know what hit him on the drive back east. Hah-hah -- game over. I've finally outsmarted a sneaky little beagle. I think . . .

The never-ending coast-to-coast battle to keep Ricky separated from his food aside, the highlights came fast and furious: Ricky dazzling the crowd on Honky-Tonk Row in Nashville; the gorgeous, painterly colors of the New Mexico and Arizona countryside; the Grand Canyon, which was way, way more than grand; the Strip in Las Vegas; Ricky strolling the promenade alongside the Santa Monica Pier; watching USC put a whupping on Syracuse in my first game at the Coliseum.

And let's not forget the ecstatic look on Robby's face upon seeing Ricky for the first time in a month.

As I was patting myself on the back for a job well done -- mission accomplished! Robby told me that he's planning to come home to Westport the weekend of October 8-9.

So why was it, again, that I drove across the whole freaking country -- and back -- with his dog?

Hank Herman is a Westport writer, and his "The Home Team" appears every other Friday. You can also keep up with his blogs -- "Beagle Man" on the Westport News website at: http://blog.ctnews.com/beagleman/; and "Old School, New School" on the Hearst website at: http://blog.ctnews.com/oldschoolnewschool.